Monday, April 13, 2015

Do you know what a Philatelist is? Well if you happen to have an 1860’s stamped envelope delivered by the Pony Express, worth about $50,000 dollars you are probably a Philatelist. A stamp collector. And that envelope is the oldest one known with a stamp on it on exhibit at the Smithsonian Institute in Washington D.C. I didn’t even know we had a stamp museum. Most kids I talk to don’t even know what a stamp is anymore they text and an envelope that has cursive writing is old people mail. Yes AOL “You got mail” changed the entire meaning for a new generation.

It is a geakey kid’s way to make money. Buying and selling stamps is a lost art but a way to make money if you can find the stamps. One of the greatest finds is from 1918 when the U.S. Postal Service issued a stamp in honor of the Jenny, a World War I era by-plane. The stamp was red and blue and they printed one sheet with the blue airplane upside down, those stamps now are worth millions of dollars.  In 2013 the U.S. Postal Service decided to commemorate its most famous mistake by purposely issuing its most famous mistake. Then they announced that they printed 100 stamps with the plane right side up. It was like a gifted   treasure to find for every stamp collector. One collector was so obsessed with getting the newly released rare stamp he spent $41,000 on sheets looking for one.

The 1963 film called    Charade starring Cary Grant and Audrey Hepburn gave stamp collectors a thrill since the movie was all about a desperate search for a lost stamp.  A movie like this now would have to be a documentary for all our kids who know nothing about everything in my lifetime. Yes, I must be old now. There are still die hard collectors out there and some budding ones but it is clear that the hobby has lost a bit of its luster. It is to be expected. Even greeting cards have gone down in the mail. People now will send letters and well wishes for your birthday on Facebook or some other e-mail. Mail. Smail. Then you can have a stamp printer in your home or office that by-passes all stamps and just posts an amount it cost to send the thing.

The Postmaster General of the United States says that American stamps tell the story of the American experience. If you go back to the first postage stamps, George Washington and Ben Franklyn were proudly displayed like on our currency. Around the turn of the century commemorative stamps gained popularity and that is when you saw many different kinds of stamps paying tribute to historical events and now over time we have evolved to paying tribute to notable Americans like John Cultrane, even birds and flowers. The number one seller of all time was our boy Elvis Presley. When it went on sale, in 1993, crowds went wild. Elvis may be the king of stamps too.

The largest Philatelist has to be the king of stamp collectors, Billionaire, Bill Gross who funded the building of the Stamp Gallery at the Smithsonian. He made his Billions of dollars at the global investment firm Pimco in bond fund trading. He makes headlines in the Financial News just for changing jobs. He now works with Janus Capital Group. His relaxation is with stamp collecting. He sold many of his stamps and given the money to charity.  He has already spent more than one hundred million dollars on his hobby over the years.

His aim is to obtain one   original of every single stamp the U.S. put out in the 19th Century. He believes that there are about 350-400 different designs in total out there on someone’s old envelope or in an old drawer.   That includes a stamp from 1868. There were only 2 issued and he has one of them.  The turn on for a stamp collector is to have the one nobody else can find. Do your spring cleaning but save the stamps. They are probably worth something to someone.

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